Recent News

Pacific Council Green Lights Electronic Monitoring Aboard West Coast Trawl Fleets Starting in 2017

SEAFOODNEWS.COM by Susan Chambers - April 22, 2016

The Pacific Fishery Management Council voted earlier this month to allow three West Coast commercial fishing fleets to employ camera-based electronic monitoring systems. Beginning in 2017, commercial fishing vessels can substitute cameras for human observers. This move is designed to simplify logistics, reduce costs and increase profits for fishermen.

As of 2017, the fixed-gear, shore-based whiting trawl and mothership catcher vessel fleets will no longer be required to carry human observers on fishing trips, as they currently do under the “full accountability” fishery management system that regulates these fleets.

“This is precedent-setting because it’s the first Council-authorized electronic monitoring system to move from pilot project to full implementation in U.S. waters for purposes of catch accounting,” said Shems Jud, pacific regional director for Environmental Defense Fund’s Oceans Program, in a press release. “The Council’s decision culminates several years’ worth of work by fishermen, the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, Council staff and NGOs.  This decision represents a watershed moment in fisheries co-management in this region, and may serve as a model for others.”

The National Marine Fisheries Service issued a policy directive in 2013 to "encourage the consideration of electronic technologies to complement and/or improve existing fishery-dependent data collection programs ...," according to the directive. Fisheries in other parts of the U.S., particularly ones in which the costs of human observers are high, have been exploring the use of EM systems. The West Coast program could be a model for implementation in other U.S. fisheries, according to the press release.

Some 26 vessels in the groundfish fishery have been testing the EM systems on the West Coast since 2015 under exempted fishing permits. The total number of vessels eligible to carry cameras based on this decision could be as many as 45.

West Coast groundfish trawl fleets have been operating with 100 percent observer coverage since the groundfish catch shares program launched in January 2011. Logistical challenges, uneven availability of observers and shoreside monitors, and high observer costs shouldered by fishermen have been a significant source of frustration among the fleet.

Under the “optimized retention” approach adopted by the Council, fishermen’s logbook entries will be the primary data
source, and they will be checked against the videos by authorized third parties.

“What this decision does is transfer responsibility for catch accounting from the federal government to vessel operators, where it should be,” said Heather Mann, executive director of the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, an
Oregon-based organization representing 18 whiting vessels. “Skippers will use their logbook to track their catch, and electronic monitoring is there to verify that their logbook is accurate. This decision is a long-overdue acknowledgement that West Coast groundfish fishermen are responsible stewards of their fishery.”

On the West Coast, the West Coast Region's electronic technology implementation plan also includes options at-sea EM programs for the swordfish fishery and identified potential needs or uses in the sardine and salmon troll fisheries with regard to electronic fish tickets.

Council action for groundfish bottom trawl vessels will take place in 2017. Some of these vessels have been operating under EFPs as well.

"Along with vessels, shoreside processors also are investigating the possibility of EM to ease the regulatory burden for seafood processing plants," West Coast Seafood Processors Association Senior Policy Adviser Rod Moore said.

Under the trawl catch shares program, shoreside monitors are required to monitor the offloads. Oftentimes, the vessel observer also acts as the shoreside monitor when the vessel unloads. But as more vessels move to EM, hiring shoreside monitors for remote ports is costly.

(Full disclosure: Susan Chambers also works for the WCSPA and brought this issue to the attention of the PFMC's Groundfish Advisory Panel)


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Prohibition On The Use of Midwater Trawl Gear Shoreward of the 150 Fathom Line in the Shorebased Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Program

Effective Thursday, November 26, 12:00 Noon Pacific Standard Time

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is prohibiting the use of midwater trawl gear in the Shorebased IFQ Program for the remainder of 2015, shoreward of the boundary line approximating the 150 fathom depth contour in the Shorebased IFQ Program. Vessels on a trip using midwater trawl gear in the Shorebased IFQ Program must cease fishing at 12:00 noon on Thursday, November 26, 2015 and either 1) fish seaward of the boundary line approximating the 150 fm depth contour or, 2) return to port. Vessel operators are encouraged to record their actions regarding this noon area closure in their logbook.
This bycatch reduction measure is being taken as an automatic action and provides actual notice, per regulations at 50 CFR 660.60(d) and 50 CFR 660.140(a)(3), to reduce potential impacts on canary rockfish, an overfished species subject to rebuilding requirements under the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. In light of the most recent canary catch estimates, all participants in groundfish fisheries should take extra care to avoid canary rockfish when fishing.
Latitude and longitude coordinates for the boundary line approximating the 150 fm depth contour are defined at 50 CFR 660.73(h) and can also be downloaded from the NMFS West Coast Region website at:

West Coast trawler appears in World Series ad

This definitely falls under the category of "You Don't See This Every Day;" West Coast fishermen featured in a TV commercial during the World Series. We thought it was worth sharing.

During the Series, Whole Foods Market started a multimillion dollar ad campaign that features Kevin Dunn and his Astoria-based Iron Lady. Building on recent announcements from the Marine Stewardship Council and the Seafood Watch program, the campaign is all about sustainable food sourcing, and describes Kevin's catch as "independently rated for sustainability; traceable from dock to store."

The 30-second spot can be seen here.

In tandem with that ad, Whole Foods released another three-minute video on YouTube that features Kevin and his crew, along with Andrew Bornstein of Bornstein Seafoods. Here's that one.

Pacific Council Selects Preferred Alternatives for Trawl Groundfish Electronic Monitoring Program

At the September 2014 Council meeting in Spokane, WA, the Council selected their final preferred alternatives for an electronic monitoring program for the Pacific coast limited entry trawl groundfish fishery catch shares program. See the “Fishery specific tables that show the Council’s final preferred alternatives” (PDF format). More detail regarding the Council’s decision will be provided in the near future on the Council’s website.

The Council also provided guidance to NMFS regarding preservation of the IFQ Program goals and the development performance standards when developing regulations to implement an EM Program. In order to preserve the conservation and accountability aspects of the IFQ Program, the EM Program must accurately capture discard events (i.e., whether discard has occurred), amount of discard (i.e., volume in weight and size of individual fish), disposition of discard (i.e., if we are to consider providing survivability credit for released fish, such as halibut), and do so even for rare events (e.g., catch and discard of rebuilding rockfish, by species).

In developing performance standards and accountability measures, the Council recommends NMFS consider the economic incentives to misreport or underreport catches and mortalities of overfished rockfish and Pacific halibut.

Individual accountability in the fisheries will hold only so far as monitoring programs are able to counteract these incentives. As such, having adequate enforcement to ensure compliance with the EM Program with strong consequences in place for violations are keys to success.

Performance standards examples are listed below:

  1. Require recording of discards in logbooks with estimated weights given for each species for each haul or set;
  2. Require a minimum of 30% video review during times of gear retrieval and 30% of video review of the remainder of the trip; compare to logbook entries for logbook certification;
  3. Logbook certification is achieved if video review determines that logbook amounts are within 20% accuracy of video review, by species;
  4. If logbook amounts do not meet 20% accuracy standard, then a 100% video review is triggered at vessel account holder expense and vessel cannot commence another fishing trip until video has been reviewed and vessel account has been debited;
  5. If the 100% video review is triggered more than twice within a six-month time period, then 100% video review is in effect for all fishing trips for the six months following the commencement of fishing activity, again at the vessel account holder’s expense.

Seafood Watch Up-Listing of Trawl Groundfish Species Generates Widespread Attention to West Coast Fishery

The announcement by Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program that they had raised the rankings for dozens of West Coast trawl species is welcome news that is generating a lot of attention, both domestically and among seafood industry-watchers around the world.

Following the June certification by the Marine Stewardship Council of 13 West Coast species as sustainable, Tuesday's announcement by the Aquarium marks the second major acknowledgement of the remarkable progress made by West Coast trawlers and fishery managers over the last decade.

Congratulations are in order for everyone involved in this unfolding success story!

Here are just a few of the outlets covering the Seafood Watch upgrades:

Seattle Times (front page)

New York Times

Monterey Herald

The Oregonian


San Francisco Chronicle

Los Angeles Times

Undercurrent News

Major Announcement: MSC Certifies 13 West Coast Trawl Species as Sustainable.

(Portland, Ore. – June 3, 2014)Citing the transition to catch shares management as a key to rebuilding stocks and reducing bycatch, 13 species caught by the West Coast trawl fishery today earned designation from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as sustainable. The designation opens up new markets for a fishery that spans California, Oregon and Washington, and accounted for more than 40 million pounds in landings in 2013.

The MSC designation comes after years of work to improve the sustainability of the fishery, including the adoption of a catch share program in 2011, after the fishery was declared a federal disaster in 2000. Through the cooperation of fishermen, fishery managers, EDF and others, a catch share program was designed and implemented for the fishery that rebuilds and manages stocks to ensure long-term sustainability.

“The MSC designation is a testimony to the environmental and economic benefits we can achieve by working together to solve major fisheries challenges,” said Shems Jud, deputy regional director for the Pacific region with EDF’s Oceans Program. “It may come as a surprise for some to learn that commercial fishermen and environmentalists work closely together, but we’ve been doing that successfully here for almost 10 years and the result is a win-win for fish and fishermen.”

Catch shares takes the science-based catch limit for the fishery and divides the total sustainable amount of fish that can be caught into individual quotas that each fisherman can catch throughout the year. Once implemented, catch shares ensure fishermen stay within the fishery’s sustainable limit while giving them a direct stake in its success and the flexibility to fish when it make sense for them.

According to Brad Pettinger, director of the Oregon Trawl Commission, the implementation of catch shares in 2011 was a milestone for the fishery.

“The changes made under the catch share program got us over many of the hurdles on our way to gaining MSC certification, which is a game-changer for us,” said Pettinger. “Working with the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service, we have renewed our social contract with America’s seafood consumers by demonstrating conclusively that we can manage and harvest these species in a sustainable fashion.”

The catch share program that includes these newly certified species takes the commitment to sustainability even further with its monitoring program. Federal monitors travel aboard each vessel to verify that the entire catch is accounted for and meets the requirements of the program.

“We want to acknowledge the very difficult adaptations that fishermen have made as they work to rebuild this major American fishery,” said Jud. “Today, rates of bycatch and discards have plummeted, while overfished species are rebuilding more rapidly than initially anticipated. At the same time, fishing businesses are able to fish more efficiently under the new management system.”

The MSC’s exhaustive Final Report & Determination, more than 400 pages in length, enumerates several strengths of the West Coast groundfish trawl fishery, including:

• Analytical stock assessments are carried out for most species, and there is a strong link between assessment results and management actions;
• The management plan establishes individual accountability on the part of fishermen and delivers more complete data for fishery managers;
• Sensitive habitats are protected in areas of “essential fish habitat,” and additional areas deemed off-limits to bottom trawls;
• The management system is transparent and open to the public;
• Management of the fishery is based on the best scientific information; and
• The catch share program provides incentives for sustainable fishing.

“For West Coast consumers, this announcement means that their options for buying local and certifiably sustainable fish have just expanded dramatically,” said Geoff Bettencourt, a commercial fisherman from Half Moon Bay, CA. “And that’s great news for everyone who loves seafood.”

The certification of this fishery includes the first MSC certified rockfish species: Chilipepper rockfish, Longspine Thornyheads, Shortspine Thornyheads, Splitnose Rockfish, Widow Rockfish and Yellowtail Rockfish. It also includes the first MSC certified skate species, Longnose Skates. The remaining certified species include Arrowtooth Flounder, Dover Sole, English Sole, Ling Cod, Petrale, and Sablefish (also known as Black Cod).

# # #

Media wishing more information about this announcement, please contact Shems Jud,, (503) 358-7053 or Scott Coughlin,, (206) 228-4141.

Costs Endanger structural changes made by the West Coast trawl fleet

Pacific Fishing Magazine, August 2013, by Deeda Schroeder

About two and a half years into the West Coast Trawl Rationalization program, fishermen and their supporters are beginning to feel confident that they understand the program.

That understanding includes the program's benefits and its weaknesses -- and how the program's expenses affect fishermen's bottom line.

The trouble is, those costs have already begun to ramp up. In the next few years, if nothing changes, new expenses are likely to eliminate what for some are already slim profit margins, fishermen and industry supprters said.

At the same time, the program's rules are holding the fleet -- especially the non-whiting boats -- from catching more fish to pay for the higher costs. In 2012, aggregate attainment of all species other than whiting was 29 percent, up 5 percent from 2011, but nowhere near what it could be if some restrcitions were loosened....

Complete article in PDF below!

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